By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Dapo Akinrefon, Olasunkanmi Akoni & Monsuru Olowoopejo
LAGOS — Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, was last night fighting the odds for a second term ticket in the All Progressives Congress, APC, after his subordinate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, angling to unseat him gathered the Lagos political establishment to hear his political manifesto.
Sanwo-Olu is currently an appointee of Governor Ambode, having been appointed by the embattled governor as Managing Director of Lagos State Property Development Corporation, LSDPC.
Sanwo-Olu’s declaration was witnessed by an intimidating cross-section of the Lagos political establishment, including Senator Gbenga Ashafa, who remarkably, had earlier endorsed Ambode alongside two other Lagos senators.
Ashafa, who is fighting a political battle of sorts for his senatorial seat was joined by members of the House of Representatives, state legislators and the 57 local government chairmen at the declaration where he vowed complete loyalty to the people and the party leadership.
Among other prominent personalities at the brief ceremony, held at City Hall, Lagos Island were Mr. James Faleke, representing Ikeja Federal Constituency, in the House of Representatives; Chief Demola Seriki, former Minister of State, Defence; Wale Edun, former Commissioner for Finance; Chief Sunday Ajose, former Head of Service and Vice-Chairman, Lagos West APC; Wahab Alawiye, former Lagos Island council boss and former member, Lagos State House of Assembly; Cardinal James Odunmbaku, Chief Sunny Ajose, Alhaji Abdulai Enilolobo, Chief Kaoli Olusanya, APC Vice-Chairman, Dr. Tola Kasali, Mr. Tayo Ayinde, Director General, campaign organisation for Sanwo-Olu, who was also Chief Detail to former Governor Bola Tinubu; Lola Essen who is the Chairman of Conference 57, comprising all the council chairmen, Kayode Omiyale, and Rotimi Agunsoye.
Reaching out for survival
Supporters of Governor Ambode, who are yet to give up the battle, were also making their way towards appeasing their foes with a subtle warning that the crisis could open the state to the forays of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The Ambode camp, it also emerged yesterday, was also desperately trying to reach out to Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State who is said to have a strong influence on the Mandate Group, the grassroots machinery of the party that is stoking the revulsion against Ambode.
The Ambode camp, while claiming that their problems originated from Aregbesola apparently because of what they claimed as the Lagos governor’s refusal to support a bid by Aregbesola for the Lagos West senatorial seat, were nevertheless still reaching out to the Osun governor.
“Yes, people are talking to Aregbesola because if he can talk to his people this whole problem will settle,” one source said.
The perception in the Ambode camp, Vanguard gathered, flowed from the reported opposition of the Lagos governor to the alleged senatorial bid of Aregbesola for the Lagos West Senate ticket.
Following his shuttle to Abuja, Ambode, Vanguard gathered yesterday, had returned to Lagos after bringing President Muhammadu Buhari to cause Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole to plead his case to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The pleas, Vanguard gathered, did little to change the situation on the ground where the issues against the governor had sufficiently mobilised the party grassroots against him.
“Everything has been done to save the man but the foot soldiers are determined against the return of the man, and they are unyielding,” a source privy to the talks between Tinubu, Osinbajo and Comrade Oshiomhole on the issue said yesterday.
The source added that the grassroots had firmly given Tinubu the choice of choosing between it and the embattled governor.
An alternative for the Ambode Camp which was yet to be exploited was the option of teaming up with the Babatunde Fashola Camp in Abuja, but the prospect of that was still very remote given the reported distance between Ambode and his predecessor.
A source, who confided in Vanguard, said: “The governor is not resting on his oars as he is making attempts to reach out to the likes of Raji Fashola and Dr. Muiz Banire, who he feels can assist him in actualising his ambition. The governor knows that Fashola, Banire and some aggrieved leaders of the party are not pleased with Asiwaju Tinubu and that is why he is reaching out to them because as the saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
Tribute to Tinubu, others
Sanwo-Olu, who had the wind in his sails yesterday, spoke with confidence as he lauded earlier leaders of the state like Herbert Macaulay, Kitoye Ajasa, Dr. Adeniyi Jones, Mobolaji Johnson, Lateef Jakande among others. He also paid his tribute to the man he said laid the foundation for the modernisation of the state, Tinubu.
“Modern Lagos, since the inception of this administration, is blessed with innovators and visionary leaders. That is why I must recognise the man that led in the modernisation of Lagos and a celebrated tactician, our National Leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
“I feel privileged to be part of that process that made it happen. I assure you that it shall continue to be the road map when I become the next civilian governor of the state.
“I wish to commend Governor Babatunde Fashola for his contributions and his glorious path. I am inspired by the courage and achievements of all the leaders who have charted the path and development of Lagos State.”
“When I look back at my experience in the public service, I realised that God had prepared me for this moment. I served the state government in many capacities.”
While declaring that God had prepared him for the moment, he promised to tackle the particular challenges that had lately confronted Lagosians, notably environmental waste, bad roads and the disconnect between the people and the government that had particularly frayed nerves among the grassroots.
He said: “The manifesto of our party promises a welfare programme by building the capacity of our economy so that we can provide jobs for the youths and make the country stable and secure.
“These values are the things that I believe in, and I am ready to defend it. I will ensure its propagation. If elected as the next Governor of Lagos State, I shall immediately embark on the full restoration of the glory of the state and make the people the cornerstone of government.
“I will restore the environment that has become the source of serious anxiety to Lagosians. I will relieve residents of Lagos State of the persistent gridlocks and hiccups that have made life brutish and nasty for all of us.
“Our government’s focal point shall be to provide the greatest good for the greatest number of the people of Lagos State. I have invited you all here to join me on this journey to take Lagos to a new dimension by transforming the manifesto of our party to the programme of action.
“I am sending a clarion call to all our members that there is a lot to be done to achieve a Lagos of our dream. I present myself as a capable and competent and tested hand to make Lagos greater.
Declaring his loyalty to the people and party leadership, he said: “Loyalty in my view is the currency of politics. I shall be loyal to the people of the state and leadership of the party.
“I urge my party members to join me in elevating the state in all facets of human endeavours through improvement and enlightenment.”
Amid chanting of “Change for Progress,” from the crowd, Seriki, former Minister of State (Defence) gave the vote of thanks and stressed that the declaration by Sanwo-Olu would help change the history of the state.
He, however, urged party members and his loyalists not to rest on their oars, saying, “we must start the campaign vigorously for him (Sanwo-Olu), and this must start from here, Lagos central.”